Lack Of Safe Access To Water Is Killing Our Children
By Victoria M. Walker
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released a report during World Water Day that says water and sanitation is “a matter of life and death.”
According to UNICEF, children younger than 15 are nearly three times more likely to die from diarrhea linked to unsanitary conditions than violence directly linked to conflict and war. For children under 5, that number is even greater. They are 20 times more likely to die from disease than conflict violence.
“The odds are already stacked against children living through prolonged conflicts – with many unable to reach a safe water source,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore. “The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets.”
While children as a whole are vulnerable from a lack of access, the report found that girls, in particular, suffer greatly. The report found that girls are at risk of becoming sexual assault victims as they collect it or use latrines. People with disabilities also faced risks.
The report used data from countries on the African continent and Asia. The report highlighted a South Sudanese woman, Charity, who worries daily about giving her three children dirty, contaminated water. In the outskirts of Juba, where Charity and her family live, just one hand pump provides a clean source.
“If there is no water, then there is no food,” Charity said. When that happens, “I call my children, I hold them to me and we will sleep … because there is nothing.”
In war-torn Damascus, lack of access has been used as a weapon of war. Bashir and his family have access for about two hours every three or four days, the report stated. In 2016, a treatment plant that served 2 million people was deliberately shut down for 48 days.
“When my father tells us it’s our turn to receive water, we prepare everything we can fill at home; bottles, jerrycans, pots, and pans,” Bashir, 12, said in the report. “When the water comes, it’s just like a party for us!”
Victoria M. Walker
Victoria M. Walker is an award-winning multimedia journalist and full-time lecturer in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at her alma mater, Howard University. She was previously the breaking news and viral content video editor at The Washington Post.